Franklin Blackwood grew up dreaming of wearing a policeman's badge and uniform.
He set that goal aside when he hit his senior year at Start High School.
He dropped out of school so he could work full time.
Now 37 - a year after being laid off from a well-paying job as a union construction foreman - Mr. Blackwell has earned his high school equivalence diploma after passing the General Educational Development test, commonly known as the GED.
He currently is studying criminal justice at Owens Community College.
"I have a wife and three children so I had no option but to pass and get my GED," Mr. Blackwell said.
He was among 51 people honored yesterday for receiving an Ohio high school equivalence diploma.
Those picking up their diplomas at a graduation ceremony at Owens ranged in age from 18 to past retirement.
JETTA FRASER Enlarge
Like many of his fellow graduates, Mr. Blackwell said going back to school after more than a decade was difficult.
"You are not kidding, it was hard," he said.
"The hardest part is the math, because if you don't use it every day, it's hard to recall what you learned years ago."
The test covers four other subject areas as well: language arts-writing, language arts-reading, science, and social studies.
Joyce Winters, director of the Northwest Ohio Area Adult Basic and Literacy Education Consortium, which organized the ceremony, said one in eight Ohioans are without a high school diploma.
"These are adults who have achieved great success at great odds," Ms. Winters said.
"They have had to overcome challenges that often traditional high school students have not."
Yesterday was the first graduation ceremony the consortium had for GED graduates, although other groups have organized similar ceremonies in the past.
Owens is home to the consortium, which also includes Oregon City Schools, Sylvania Schools, and Washington Local Schools. It also provides post-secondary training and education and English for speakers of other languages.
Kelsey Schomaker, 20, and her younger brother, Alex Schomaker, 18, both donned blue caps and gowns yesterday.
They both left Whitmer High School before graduating, then earned their high school equivalence diplomas through the GED program.
Miss Schomaker, who has a 2-year-old son, said the challenges of being a mother pushed her out of high school.
"I want to be a cook now, so I am going to look into that," she said.
Representatives from the University of Toledo, Bowling Green State University, and Lourdes College attended the event.
Amanda Smith, who also has a 2-year-old, said she plans to attend college and pursue a medical industry career as did her mother, who became a nurse after receiving her own high school equivalence diploma.
"I just gave up. It got too hard," Miss Smith said. "I was at Central High School and then Woodward and being a single mother, it was really hard."
She said she plans to enroll at Owens or UT.
Cheryl Cullum, 45, one of three GED graduates who spoke at the ceremony, had retired from a job as vice president of a textile company when she decided to get the diploma.
"I did it to make these three proud of me," she said, pointing at her daughters, 19, 20, and 24.
She said she left school early to help support her family.
Ms. Cullum said she wants to study education and open a day- care center.
Contact Ignazio Messina at: